tv [untitled] April 8, 2013 8:30am-9:00am PDT
starting to be put to use in buildings. they'd come up with all of these different patterns. this car on the left is two cars end-to-end with a connecting vestibule. it's kind of an i pattern so you could have a cabin in one car, a compartment in one car. the other car might be your mother-in-law. and you could meet in the middle in that sorted of connecting section for breakfast. they did similar things. they'd put like four in a cross with a connecting part in the middle. and you could see these are not exactly a.d.a. accessible. they're up here on these platforms above the sandunes. you can probably guess why. if you can't, i'll give you another view here. this is the same view pretty much. so you can see that car up above the sandunes. but here it's getting sort of buried. the sand would shift. and it would blow around and they talked about if you lived in a car house how you might get up in the morning, open your door, and there would be a three-foot drop. or if you made the mistake of having your door open out, you
might not be able to get out because the sand billowed up against the door in the night. so they build these car houses up on stilts just to keep them above the sand and above the fray. this idea of buying your own lot and getting your cars really booms. jacob heyman hits it, the jackpot. everybody wants to buy their own car house now. on sutro's land you could only rent it. now the creative carpenter starts emerging. they can take these cars, add additions, put them um in the air. -- up in the air. this is a house from a gardener in golden gate park. this is on the great highway. you can see he just put one car on the end as sort of a little sun room or viewing area facing the ocean. a lot of cars were used as rentals. these are little rental cabins where they basically just put two together. and the real estate guys who owned lots could rent them for people for the weekend or this summer. you had millionaires coming from all over the place to
actually rernt a -- rent a car, to rough it in the old car in the beach. it was just a novel, faddish thing to do in the 1890's. >> woody, i was wondering. you said they dragged them out. i know the maps from that area, and basically the lincoln street line is the most southern railway for the city at that time. so everything south of that, you're telling me, sandunes. we all know walking sandunes. how did we drag them out? did we drag them out on lincoln with horses? were we able to put out some rails. there's a good deal of bodies when you say 50 or 100. >> that's a good question i was really struggling with. well, for one thing, the golden gate park, the roads, the park commissioners were very jealous about. they didn't want anybody to use the golden gate park roads for commerce or transporting things. they wanted to keep it for recreation. so for a long time i thought maybe they used that streetcaroline on lincoln way, used the rail, somehow put the cars on some kind of fladbed
rail thing, brought them out to the edge and dragged them across the sand, perhaps on sleds or something. i finally came across what heyman did in an article. he actually somehow talked the commissioners into using the golden gate park roads. so he -- remember, the apparatus, most of the machinery, is taken out of these cars which makes them a lot lighter. they're mostly wood at this point. they're probably brought out, pulled by horses through golden gate park road. then in 1892, the great highway gets improved. then he's only got maybe half a block of sandunes to drag these cars on to his land. now, once you get these cars kind of sitting in the sandunes and somebody buys a lot three blocks away, i don't know exactly. again, i think they must have used some combination of sleds, horses, block and tackle. you know, we're not exactly sure. >> but maybe only a few blocks
instead of the great distance. >> right. maybe creep little by little to grow. and most of carville was centered in about a two or three-block radius. so people started getting very excited about the idea of what they can do with these old cars. this was a very famous sort of bed and breakfast of the 1890's called vista del mar, run by mrs. patriarch. she had these old north beach and mission horse cars that she essentially left revealed on the upper floor. she put pillows and hammocks up there so guests could stay up and look at the ocean from the car up above. this house sort of became like the winchester mystery house. it kept growing and growing, and having more additions and more cars annexed on to it. so at one point it has up to 10 cars. you can see they're using old dash signs or destination signs for fencing, actually, here in the front. so everything gets recycled in carville. later mrs. patriarch's bed and breakfast becomes an episcopal
church called st. andrew's by the sea. so here it is in that incarnation. in the back there's a shed there. that's the sunday school, it says. you can see the fence. it was necessary to sort of fight the sand and keep it at bay. it's another pretty famous house on the great highway. it looks sort of like a mechanist myian temple or something. it kept being boxy and then growing. it's in the center here. it was made up of about four or five cars, actually. you could see people had different takes on it. some people liked to keep their cars very exposed and open. kind of have that old sutro land quality to it. so people could see it was a car. and others really rushed to shingle over or hide the caffers -- cars inside the architecture. this is the house on 40th avenue you see he has two cars. then he builds a more conventional little cabin on the right. again, it was sort of like
you're showing off the cars. you don't necessarily need them. you could build a very small little cabin. the stars are made up, by the way. i just put those in. so carville becomes -- like we said, we had these rich people, millionaires coming down from sackmaster -- sacramento. it becomes a fashionable, trendy thing to do. the guilded age was sort of passed. we were in a depression in the 1890's so it kind of looked good if you were a rich person to say, oh, we're roughing it this year in cars down at the beach. it also drew a bunch of artists, writers, and other people who were attracted to the romantic idea of cars out in the sandunes. some of the people who came to carville, xavier martinez, the california painter, he renlted an old car as a studio out there at the beach. and that picture in the background here is one of his paintings. the associate editor at
"sunset" magazine promoted it. another person, jack london, the writer, came out and partied in carville in an old car a doctor friend of his rented. george sterling, the poet who wrote "the cool, gray city of love" came out to carville a lot. and this guy really loved it. gillette burgess was a humorous, a writer. he wanted to be known as a serious novelist but he was better known for his children's books and nonsense works. he wrote "the purple cow." have you heard of that one? it's an old san francisco one. but he got so sick of it. tive written down here. he hated people reciting it back to him so he wrote, "a, yes, i wrote "the purple cow," i'm sorry now i wrote it. but i can tell you anyhow, i'll kill you if you quote it." he used carville in two of his
novels, scenes and characters. one is a romantic. a guy rents one and brings his dates out there for a little romantic rendezvous. and another one where an old car conductor rents a car and it comes to life. you have to read more in these books. another artist and musicians. this car on the left, number one, was called la bohemme rented in the sutro section by musicians who when they finished their work downtown in the clubs and theaters would go out to carville to this clubhouse in the night and drink and go skinny dipping in the surf and raise all sorts of ruckus. this little hill in front of them they called mount diablo. they each had their own little locker that was locked up where they kept their liquor so they didn't have to share with each other. and less bohemian wildness. this was a women's card-playing club. they called their car water wild.
carville wasn't only out there in the outer sunset. other little communities came up here and there all across the united states, actually. but after the earthquake and fire, 1906 earthquake and fire, there was a little sister community, you might call, called carzonia. and this was a dr. charles cross set up 10 old cable cars on california street. between california and cornwall street, fifth avenue and fourth avenue in the richmond district. he assured the neighbors who were very agast at the idea of these old cable cars being set up that they would be very tasteful and artistic. and essentially, yeah, it was like one room with a little bathroom attached made up of old cable cars. dr. cross thought he was hitting on something. there were hundreds of thousands of people who were homeless, looking for new places to live in the aftermath of the earthquake and fire. so he thought why not use these old cable cars. it only lasted about 10, 12 years.
guess it wasn't a big hit. he built a more conventional apartment building after that to replace it. it really was the 1906 earthquake and fire that sort of spelled the end of carville. you have these hundreds of thousands of people looking for new homes, suddenly displaced. now they might listen to these men and say, look, you were renting before. you don't want to live there. i've got this lot out here, sand dune. but it's $100. you can build a house here for cheap. suddenly, more conventional houses start being built around carville. and some of the stores that kind of started throughout in carville are used by the neighbors. and you start seeing that these conventional homes start pushing out the cars. so we have these cars in the great highway. but behind we have these more straight forward, real houses. here it is again. they're sort of closing in on it. and writers bemoaned that the old planks that were used between houses and cars were now being replaced by real sidewalks, electricity actually
comes out pretty quick. the septic tanks, windmills get replaced by real plumbing. the neighbors, they don't want carville anymore. they don't want these bohemian musicians skinning dipping and getting drunk at night. these sort of petting parties that are happening, that the young men are hosting in cars. they want real schools, real firehouses. they want to be known as a real community. and so an improvment group called the oceanside improvement group, decided that they would get rid of carville. they hosted an event on july 4, 1913. they called it "burning the car out of carville" which was pretty straight forward. they asked sutro's heirs if they could take the old cars that he had been renting in that original carville plot and make a big bonfire out of them. she said sure. so they took all the cars, put them in a big pile. it was july 4, so they bought some fire works and tossed them in with the fire. but they were trying to
announce they were a new neighborhood. they didn't want to be called carville anymore. they wanted to be called oceanside, which sounded a lot more romantic. and so here we looked at that picture. there's a couple of car houses still around in the early 1910. but just 15 years later it really starts filling in. the stucco homes we think about in the sunset district. the merchant builders start building. the row houses start taking over in the 1920's and 1930's. and soon people start forgetting that carville was even there. the cars that do remain are kind of derelict. they've been in the elements for 20 years. they're really warn down. mostly they're rented to people who were too poor to rent to other places. so instead of these judges and lawyers and doctors renting cars you had people really on the fringes of society using them, which doesn't help the whole reputation of carville or these cars with the neighbors. they're getting beat up.
this is by 1925. a lot of cars, they get pushed back in the backyards of house of lots. so somebody might build a conventional house and just push their old car house in the backyard. this was on 48th avenue in the backyard. it's an old cable car house. guy who lived there in the early 1960's, he had a boyfriend named cliff. they paint it yellow. when he got a new boyfriend named dennis, they painted it red to get rid of cliff. but it was a beautiful little car. he still remembers it. it disappeared, we think, sometimes in the 1970's. but this is what keeps my hopes up. this actually isn't in carville. this is in the richmond district on ninth avenue. people say, are there any car houses left? are they all gone? have they disappeared? this is an example of how one can surprise you. this is on ninth avenue in the parking lot behind the old coliseum theater. before that park being lot was there the city was looking for
houses, spaces, near merchant corridors to create these little parking lots. they bought this house from a mrs. suggs because they wanted to tear it down and put the parking lot in. when they started tearing the house gown, they realized that this kind of boring house was made up of three old cable car trailers. even though the granddaughter who played in the house didn't know that it was made of cable cars, it was hidden behind the stucco. so these little things can surprise you. look at this house. this is in the rear of a lot on great highway. you can't really see it from the street. but if you looked at the front of it you wouldn't think there was anything spemble about it. it's essentially a shingled box. but if you got around to the back of it, you'll see it's actually made of two cable cars and a horse car on the second floor. this is how it's sort of put together. we're look at the backyard here. two cable cars are put together and they basically removed a wall from each to make one large room, a living room. then the horse car is still
complete as a bedroom off to the side. this is photographs -- perhaps the last greatest carville house left. it's really a neat place. so with the cable cars, you know you have that little pop-up roof in the middle. what they did so you wouldn't have to duck is they removed that wall and they pushed up the side roof to sort of make this dome feeling inside. and the seats are original. they're still in there. the little ventilator windows. the woodwork is all in place. it's just really a neat thing. i'd love to live there. i can't afford it. and if you get up into the attic, you can see the crowns of the cable cars still show. it's just an amazing place. so that's my hope, you know, that this book i wrote, this story gets out, we're on sfgov tv. somebody will say, i have a cable car house, nobody asked me. come take a look at it. because right now we're down to one or two maybe that are still around when we're talking about there used to be hundreds.
>> essentially into a generation of tearing them down. no more construction. complete replacement. >> yeah. in the 1910, about 1913, 1914, they really started pushing to get rid of them. when that open block that sutro rented, right on the edge of the sunset, when that cleared out, it eliminated the visibility of carville. we talk about a whole block of car houses that were still there. when that gets replaced by apartment buildings, suddenly you have a car house here, one there. just where people haven't taken the time to tear it out or build a conventional home. in the 1920's or 1930's, things were booming house building wise out there. so if you have a little empty lot that has an old car house on it you'd be stupid not to build a stucco house there and
make a quick buck. by the 1920's, they're mostly gone. there's just a couple here and there. >> so, woody, sometimes the railroad seems to be finding old cars and rebuilding them. have -- are any of these actually rebuilt and used again? >> some of them they have saved because they've popped up now and then. like the ones on ninth avenue. those three cable car trailers. they were saved by ed zelinski who took them and donated them to the maritime museum. think one still sits in a warehouse waiting for somebody to do something with it. but other old cars have been rescued and taken to parks where they've been restored. there's one down in san jose in kelly park. it's an old horse carrie stored that runs around on the weekend. -- car restored that runs around on the weekend. on the one hand, you're in this
foggy neighborhood, there's not much insulation. on the other hand, you've got 30 windows, and the sunshine in the day could just make the place broiling. and at night all of those windows let in the cold. so they advised people to put up curtains. they'd have little oil lamps, coal stoves, little oil/coal stoves. but it was a challenge. it was sort of part of the romance i think. it's like camping. >> how long did the fad last? >> the height of it, this all really takes off around 1897, 1898. the height of it is really the turn of the century. 1900 we're talking about 200 cars. after the earthquake in 1906, that's when it starts declining a little bit because more conventional houses start taking over and more people live permanently year-around. they're not just using it as a party pad. so it's after the quake it starts declining a little bit. >> is there a d.b.i. record as cable cars were moved to a site that there wou
before the earthquake, you often don't have a record. then, yeah, you're right. it goes down to some of these pictures i found by basically finding the names of people who lived in carville and then tracking down their desendends and asking, do you have anything? we had people who said, yeah, lots of photos and stories. but it takes a lot of leg work. it's not like you can just walk into a city department and get that info. >> i know you actively solicit the -- solicited people for stories. there's a wonderful newsletter what is it called? >> it's our organizational newsletter. >> it also has in it a mystery
photograph that maybe somebody submitted. can you imagine where there is? tell us where it is. but also soliciting these histories of photographs and recollections. >> it's history groups. like we're a history group for the west side of town so we interview old-timers and get donations of photographs and stories. and there's other groups like that through the city. it's up to a lot of volunteers and people who care about the neighborhood to track this stuff down. >> so the question about house moving. house moving used to be very common in san francisco. i think you once were looking at that as well. is that right? >> well, we saved some earthquake shots. lawrence helped us get the pormeyit to move them. we pulled out the ledger, you know, with like the official city ledgeser of moving houses. there were tons of them. i don't know, at some point it just kind of petered out and somebody moves a house like once every 15 years now. >> so we in our digital age, issue house moving permits once every couple of years. i pull out this little book.
it's got a piece of carbon paper in it. you put the carbon in and you write, you know, house moving permit number, you know, 36. you say from here to there. we charge a fee. a very low fee. it's really right out of the turn of the century before. >> yeah, it has that dusty, old-school feeling. >> actually, we maintained that. i tried to maintain this little book. we still do it that way. >> would the post earthquake installation of building codes and building requirements have impacted carville to expand? and ultimately was that part of the demise as our desire and need to have structures that were earthquake safe and fire safe? did that have an impact on it, i guess? >> well it seemed more that they were health issues. they were really not happy with the plumbing in carville. yeah. that shows up a lot more than anybody worried about building
integrity or anything. the thing that comes up a little later and we talked a little about, these earthquake refugee cottages. after the 1906 earthquake, the relief corporation that was attending to these refugees built thousands of these small little redwood cottages for the refugees. then when the camps closed after a year, people could take the cottages to these empty lots and set them up. it was a far bigger outcry about whether those were appropriate and what the code would be because most of them weren't put on foundations. they were just dragged out to empty lots. they were combined together. sometimes lifted up off the ground even. so you'd find articles about that far more often than finding anybody having a problem with these cars which were actually pretty sturdy. we talk about they're used as public transportation all the time. they're made of some hefty material. so people weren't too worried about them. at least it doesn't come up with the historical records. >> do we have any left? and how are we recognizing and preserving them?
>> well, there's that one left that's great that we saw the interior of. and that is not a city landmark. the guy who owns it is very aware of its significance as maybe the last and best example of a carville house. he really wants to take care of it. i don't know if he would go forward with any landmark designation just because like a lot of homeowners he doesn't want to be at all boxed in with what he can do. but that's kind of where we are. i think it is a landmark. if anything had to come up, i would definitely nominate it as one. the other examples of carville houses, there's one on 47th avenue where the cars have been basically removed and all you've really got left is perhaps the floors of a couple of cars. it was a great example until, i guess, the late 1950's. and whoever bought house decided to take out most of the woodwork. that might be the only one, the one on great highway. >> i mentioned one of the
problems with plumbing with these carville homes. i was wondering at what point in history did outhouses become illegal in san francisco? >> i'm not sure of that. but outhouses were the big part of carville. you see these early shots. there are outhouses like right next door. >> i found out, when i moved to my current house, my house had been moved from the reservoir site at holly park to where it was. there was a woman, this was 20 years allege, who had seen the move. she was a kid. she described it coming on a wagon, pulled by a mule. it was basically being breaked by the mule. because it was coming down a hill. and that was just information in my neighborhood from a woman who had lived there for a long time as a kid. and the time is getting further and further away from when these existed. but i think the best thing is humans. and maybe tchutch societies that have senior members.
>> yeah. no, if you go to almost -- almost all of our members -- we're a nonprofit organization. so we have a whole membership program. almost all of our members are these kind of people you're talking about. people who grew up in the city, are getting on in years and have these memories. they point us to a lot of other people, people that maybe aren't on the internet who live in their neighborhood. we interview them. if you go to outsideland.org, you'll see some examples of the interviews we do of the feedback we get, of the messages that these seniors post. when we have an issue like we're trying to find out about earthquake cottages or carville, we do put out an all points bulletins to seniors who might have some relation to it, some memory of it. one reason we starteded this organization is the western neighborhoods -- started this organization is the western neighborhoods are the newer neighborhoods in san francisco. the creation and development is in the living memory of a lot of people still. so we want to start this organization and capture those memories before those people are gone.
>> it's a really, really neat thing i think they're history minutes? >> yeah. one-minute videos where we give a little history of some building or site or event. >> we're in seal rock. this used to be adolph sutro's estate. these weren't there then. >> ♪ in the richmond guess i ain't that cool ♪ >> when i was a kid, my father told me those were machine gun nests up there put in during world war ii to fend off japanese attackers. >> these two structures were build in 1943 by the u.s. army. also, these were spotting positions for the big post artillery gun batteries. the stations would work together. say win here and one at fort
funston. using telescopes, they named a ship and target. and the two different sightings allowed them to trianglely position the ship at sea. >> so it was a lookout, essentially >> it was a lookout. >> i doubt if we saw a japanese ship today -- >> it would probably say toyota on the side of it. >> they are really fun. if shows you what can you do in 60 seconds. >> the pri sidot maps. people -- presidio maps. people keep forgetting that the army was a major presence. before the city was functioning, the army was functioning. and there are maps from the 1800's that show the farmhouses in the valley, the eureka valley, and mission district that were done by the army.
so the army is its own resource for the history of the city before there was a building department. they would have everything. you could find out what was the original house in an area. again, this is the 1800's more than the 1900's. but the earthquake obliterated a lot of records. >> there's the survey map that the government did. that's a great resource to just kind of show -- you know, we saw that map on the grid pattern. they had that, like i said, on maps in 1968. but there's no streets yet. but the coast survey map will show you where there are streets put in and buildings sometimes. there's lots of great resources out there. >> that was terrific, woody. thank you so much. >> i couldn't have enjoyed it more. [applause] >> we'll see you next